English 320a
B. Riebling
M 7:30-10p p.m.

Topics in Early Modern Literature: “Political Shakespeare”

What exactly were Shakespeare’s politics? Was he a “conservative,” a “radical,” or simply impossible to pin down? This course will use primary texts in classical and Renaissance political thought as well as the work of historians and literary theorists to establish the context within which Shakespeare produced some of his most political works. Our discussion will be framed by such concepts as: sacral kingship and divine right monarchy; tyranny and the rights of resistance; Machiavellianism and the ideologies of royal absolutism and republicanism. The Shakespeare texts we will discuss are divided evenly between English history and Roman plays. Specifically, we will read Richard II, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, and Henry V, Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, and Titus Andronicus, as well as Shakespeare’s narrative poem “The Rape of Lucrece.”

Historical and critical texts: Bushnell, Tragedies of Tyrants; Curtis The Great Political Theories, Volume One: From Plato and Aristotle to Locke and Montesquieu; Dubrow and Strier, The Historical Renaissance: New Essays on Tudor and Stuart Literature and Culture; Rackin, Stages of History: Shakespeare’s English Chronicles; Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment; Sommerville, Politics and Ideology in England 1603-1640.

Course Requirements:
Students will be expected give an oral report based on a scholarly article; they will write an 8-10 page annotated bibliography in essay form and a final research paper of approximately 15 pages.

Prerequisites: Two Courses in English at the 200 level or consent.

Limited Enrollment: 15